November 8, 2022

English chicken farmers warned that keeping birds confined can lead to cannibalism


Chicken farmers in England have been warned that keeping their birds in confined spaces to control the spread of bird flu could lead to cannibalism, The Telegraph reported.


Anthony Allen of Cotswolds Chickens said keeping chickens in confined spaces can lead to all sorts of problems, including cannibalism, so it isn't ideal, but clearly there is a problem and they need to take action.


Allen said bird flu regulations call for poultry to be kept indoors, and the biggest issue it presents to chicken keepers, in backyard scenarios, is that they may not necessarily have a covered outdoor area to keep chickens.


In response to an increase in the number of bird flu cases discovered in both wild birds and on farms during the largest-ever avian flu outbreak in England, the government today announced an effective lockdown for birds, requiring all poultry and captive birds to be housed in England until further notice.


Regardless of type or flock size, bird keepers are required to confine their birds indoors and implement stringent biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks from the threat of avian flu.


Allen expressed his confusion over the lack of a vaccine strategy to address the issue.


Dr Christine Middlemiss, Chief Veterinary Officer of the UK, said that the topic of vaccines is a very live global discussion, but that historically, vaccination of zoo birds in England has only taken place in "very exceptional circumstances" due to the vaccine not being terribly effective against this current strain.


She said that it was challenging to tell the difference between infected and immunised birds, which was crucial for determining whether a nation was virus-free.


The available vaccine, according to Dr Middlemiss, will not be able to stop the bird flu outbreak this year, but housing the birds would significantly reduce the risk of infection from wild birds. Other strict measures that should be taken include wearing protective clothing, making sure feed and water bottles are inaccessible to wild birds, making sure buildings are vermin-proof and have solid infrastructure without any holes, and preventing any direct or indirect contact between poultry and humans.


Sunday roasts and Christmas dinners are unlikely to be impacted, Dr. Middlemiss said, as only 2.3 million birds have already been killed or culled as a result of this outbreak, compared to the billion birds that are slaughtered in the UK annually.


She said eggs from birds that are confined can be labelled "free-range" 16 weeks from housing.


-      The Telegraph

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